Common People Fighting for Human Rights

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Looking backwards in human history, one can find many people who, wanting to fight for their own rights, ended battling for what is morally good and correct for a whole country. Born in different nations, of different cultures and struggling for different reasons, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela and Estela Barnes de Carlotto have demonstrated, through direct and non-violent action, that common people can obtain welfare for themselves, for their contemporaries and for future generations.

The childhood and adolescence of these two people show parallels but also great differences. Mandela was born in 1918 in a village in South Africa, and groomed to adopt high office as Chief after his father’s death. He heard his elders’ stories about his ancestors’ braveness when fighting for their fatherland and wanted to bestow freedom to his people. His primary education took place at a local mission school and his secondary studies at a Wesleyan school of some repute in Healdtown. After that he went to University and obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree, which he finished by correspondence after being suspended for joining in a protest boycott. Estela Barnes, born in 1930, was the only child in a lower-middle class home. She was a very good student; she liked theatre, reciting poems, singing, and being the conciliator between their class mates every time they had differences. She went to the Hermanas de la Misericordia Secondary School, a catholic institute administrated by very progressive nuns and later she studied to be a teacher. Strong family traditions and religion as well as study, which are similar at some points, but differ at some others, shaped both personalities.

Living in countries where an important part of the population was being deprived of their basic rights, a turning point would take place in their lives. Mandela, together with a small group of young Africans, become part of the African National Congress – ANC – and entered politics in order to transform ANC in a mass movement for national emancipation, and the African National Congress Youth League – ANCYL – was founded with the objective of attaining the redistribution of the land, education, culture, trade union rights and representation in the Parliament for all South Africans. “Mandela soon impressed his peers by his disciplined work and consistent effort and was elected as the league’s National Secretary in 1948. By painstaking work, campaigning at the grass-roots and through its mouthpiece Inyaniso (“Truth”) the ANCYL was able to canvass support for its policies amongst the ANC membership.”[1]

On March 24th 1976, a coup d’etat took place in Argentina. The military regime conducted the country under a policy of terror. 30.000 people, of all ages and social condition, were deprived of their freedom and tortured, and about 500 children abducted with their parents or born in undisclosed detention centres where the pregnant women were taken. Those children were treated as war booty and appropriated by people to whom they considered their true parents although they have been authors or abetters in their parents’ executions and stealers of their identities. One of those pregnant women was Estela Barnes de Carlotto’s daughter – Laura Estela Carlotto – who was kidnapped for being a Peronist activist university student. Her husband had also been missing during 25 days and released after the payment of the ransom. Estela de Carlotto commenced a new life, seeking her missing daughter and then her grandson, Guido. Laura’s body was delivered to her parents nine month after her disappearance. “Aquí nace otra Estela, una Estela hecha de la misma masa, pero que toma posiciones, que tiene actitudes distintas”[2] South African regime, signed by the domination of a white minority and a policy of rigid racial segregation – apartheid – which was in force since colony times, as well as Argentina’s National Reorganization...
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